In Flight

Learning to fly: August 2001 - ?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Starting on instruments

Tuesday afternoon is my first instruction pursuant to my instrument rating. Dr. Noel is meeting me at Easterwood at around 4, and we'll get my AFR out of the way...

I've purchased "Instrument Flying" by Taylor, and am reading it thoroughly. My budget is $2000, and my goal is to be signed off by August 15. The club is running a 10% off for prepay, with an additional 10% off for long (>2 hour) flights, so I can get up in the air for as little as $40/hr in a 152.


Sunday, March 16, 2003

Today I met Larry Perryman, whoi flew his RV-9A to CLL so I could have a ride. We went down to Brenham for lunch, while JMR brought his boys and also took my son Ben.

The RV flew very nicely, though more slowly than I expected (130 KIAS, or 150 mph in cruise). He had his Quinti prop set to fixed pitch because of some hub malfunction, so there may have been 10 kts left in the system.

The Subaru was very smooth, and the plane handled well (he let me take it for 15 minutes between CLL and 11R). There are still a couple of unknowns (7A vs 9A, subaru vs lycoming) and I need to raise about $50K to make the dream a reality. Right now, I'm looking at $7K for the VW, $4K from taxes, $6K from consulting and about $5K in the bank, for a total of $22K to get started. That should last me a year, or until the airframe is built.

One way to save a little (about $10K) would be to put a Lycoming 235 into the RV-9A. It would give up HP, but I think I could get one for arounf $10K, instead of $26K I have budgeted for a subaru supercharged.

Performance with the O-235 includes a cruise speed of 149 mph, vs 167 mph for the lycoming 160 hp or the subaru.

We'll see...

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Flew a couple of times recently...played tag with JMR at Brenham and Caldwell, then took Chris on a night flight.

I'd still like an excuse for a longer cross-country, one that required some planning.

Went and looked at kit helicopters last night: rotorway and helicycle are two name brands. The Rotorway is $65K complete (except avionics) and takes 300-400 hours to assemble.

Not sure where I am on the hangar list, but that may determine when I start an RV. I'm saving money, have around $3000 so far, plus around $4000 in a tax return and maybe $9500 for the Cabrio gives me $16500.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Flew JohnR and Gary out to Brenham (11R) for lunch on Tuesday. While they ate, I did 8 touch-n-goes with various practice approaches: full flaps, no flaps, shadowing the centerline abouit 3 feet up, short final, normal final, high approach, low approach...

It was fun.

Monday, January 13, 2003

I needed to practice today, so went out in 15M for touch-n-goes at CLL.

Did seven, one of them pretty good, the rest drifting to the left and putting a sideload on the gear. Did a simulated engine out on the last one and handled it well, but taxiied too fast up 34 and had to nearly emergency brake once I reached taxiway B.

Felt good to fly, though. I'll have to do more early morning practicing before I go up with JohnR again...I'm too rusty and prefer to get better before I'm on public display again.

Monday, November 25, 2002

So last Friday I call it a day a little early and head out to Easterwood. 93124's been sitting on the ramp and wants to be flown.

She needs at least an hour between landings, at 2450 RPM no less (which is kinda boring), but we're only charging $30/hr and it's a truly beautiful evening, so...

Shortly before takeoff JMR arrives, we jump in and head for Rockdale or somewhere generally west. Air like glass. Airplane like silk. $30/hr.

And, somewhere in a steep turn above Rockdale I remember: the Hobbs isn't working right! It had been recording only about 30 minutes for each hour in flight.

So I reached the only possible conclusion...perfect wx, perfect airframe and powerplant, good company, $30/hr and the hobbs broken: this was As Good As It Gets.

So we blew 15 bucks and had a great hour in the air.

- - - - -

Epilogue: the hobbs worked after all, so it cost a full $30. Even in heaven, everything's not perfect. But still pretty damn good.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Today, Ben and I flew to Montgomery County (CXO) to attend the EAA chapter 302 flyin. Ben flew about half of the 1.8 hours I logged, had a great time! (The pancakes and hamburger didn't hurt, either!)

We maintained about 2000' there, and 2500' on the way back. Winds were about 11 kt from 340, with CXO using runway 1.

Saw Larry Perryman's RV-9A with Eggenfellner Subaru...the engine looked great. JMR and Eric ended up driving in after they missed connections with Tim Kraemer, who was flying his military SkyMaster (aka O2) but didn't leave until over an hour after they expected.

JMR flew back to CLL in the O2 and is currently enroute back to CXO to pick up his car that he left there.

P.S...the flight today put me over 100 hours, 101.2 to be exact. Hooray!

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Went to visit the new diner at Brenham (11R) airport today, with JohnR and Pat Castenson.

The food was very good, even if the service was crazy slow...they've only been open for four days, so I expect that the logisitics of running a restaurant will get worked out soon.

John flew there, so it was left to me to do the return trip.

Well, that was some of the poorest flying I've done. It was a fairly clear day, with a little convection by the time we left the diner. Taxiing back to 16, my stomach was feeling a little unsettled, but I dismissed it, did the runup, and took the active.

A slight crosswind from 020 started blowing me to the left as I accelerated, and I rotated early, at 40 kt, mainly to avoid jerking the plane to the right on the ground. Strike #1. As John exclaims "Holy Sh#t!" from the back seat, I nosed down and accelerated to about 70 before climbing out, but still felt pretty lousy about the auspicious start.

We flew high, 5000', back to CLL to take advantage of the view and remain clear of CLL's Class D airspace, as Pat wanted to fly by Don Adam's castle in east Bryan. It was indeed a beautiful afternoon. I descended to about 2500' as we neared Bryan and flew betwixt CFD and CLL to afford everyone a decent view out the right side.

ATC set me up for a left base to runway 10, a first time for me, and it was a pleasant diversion to do a little mental game setting up my "new" approach. I must have 16-34 on the brain at CLL by now!

The landing was nearly as poor as my takeoff...I pulled power at over 1000' and dumped full flaps. We flared high (I wanted to be sure not to lose the flare with the flaps) and as I settled I started drifting left. Ruddered it right but put a side load on the mains at landing, which was disappointing. Plus, everyone's stomachs were a little queasy from the lunch, high flight and rapid descent, so it wouldn't do any good to chime in about mine being upset too. If we were all sick and all flew together, then it stands to reason that the flight (and pilot) contributed to the malaise.

Anyway, I vowed to keep in a little better practice in the future, and manhandle the plane a little more on the ground. We live and learn...

Pictures are here, and the flight path is here.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Sometimes the sky calls...

Di, Ben and Mick were in Katy today for a soccer tournament, which left Chris and me to ourselves. After church, we talked about flying over the fields in Katy, but without knowing which exact fields they were at, and with my GPS having been sent back to Magellan for the crystal to be replaced, I convinced myself that it might be a bad idea.

So we had all but decided not to fly and just went out to CLL to see if any interesting planes were on the ramp.

And then I heard it. 785 was calling me.

"Fly me," she called from the very farthest parking place on the new portion of the ramp. I smiled.

"What do you think, Chris? Feel like a ride?"

He grinned back and helped me lug my flight bag while I got the keys.

785 was the plane I learned in mostly, and I haven't flown her since May 20. Her rudder and brakes were a little off, but after getting permission to taxi around the ramp from Ground, I figured out how to make things work.

It was decided that Madisonville would make a nice short trip, so we ran it down to runway 34 and before you knew it we were off!

I had forgotten how fast 785 flies...we were turning 2400 on the tach and registering 106 KIAS. Straight out to the NE (45 from VOR 113.3) at 2000' brought us to 51R in about 20 minutes. By the time the airport was in sight, Chris had turned down his headset and was dozing.

Made a really sweet patterned approach to Rwy 36 and brought it down nicely, though the small crosswind and funky rudder/brakes made handling on the runway an adventure. Back-taxiied to 36 again, and once more we off (a happy pilot and sleeping passenger).

Back in the same radial to CLL (watching for parachutists at CFD as ATIS requested), called a two-mile right downwind and landed #2 behind a student doing touch-and-goes. Meat-footed the ground maneuvers again, but kept 785 moving in the right direction until we were tied down again, safe and sound. Chris woke up during taxi.

"I let you that OK?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes," he replied, still drowsy. Then he opened an eye a little wider and looked over to me.

"Dad," he added, "thanks for the ride."

That's what flying's about.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Learning, never ends!

I had the chance to fly to Pleasanton today to pick up 4 Millenium cylinders for 124. JMR was planning to go, but he spent all afternoon yesterday flying with Eric, so he cancelled.

Eric (the grad student!) was free, as usual and took John's spot. The plan was to leave CLL, climb to 8500 through scattered cumulus and fly VFR on top for about 1:40 to PEZ. But, just as I've read, sometimes the cumulus climb faster than 00J. We spent 20-30 minutes trying to get on top, and gave up when we reached 8500' and still had to look up. 00J was not climbing too well, so we gave up and took it down to 4500' direct.

Got flight following, which guided us through about 4 handoffs 'til PEZ was in sight. Found the airport right where AnywhereMap said it would be, and gave it one of my best stabilized approaches and landing.

It took a few minutes for J&J Air Parts to truck the cylinders over, so we enjoyed a few cokes. We loaded the parts (three in the back seat, one in the luggage hold), refueled (it took about 18 gal to get there) and took off.

Totally forgot pictures, so I circled the field to the right so Eric could snap a few good ones. Then climbed out, rejoined flight following, and made tracks for CFD to drop them off. This time the wind was behind us about 45 degrees, so our groundspeed was about 110 (vs 95 on the way there) and we never even tried to climb above 3500'.

Made a nice approach to CFD after overflying midfield and took it in pretty good. Dropped off our ballast and we're off one more time, this time to home to CLL. Uneventful 2mile left base and landed fast on 16.

Total time: 3.8 hours. Shipping would have been $60, so I should get that deducted from my bill of $209 = $149.

It was great to feel the air again!

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

I wish I had better words to describe the frustration and enjoyment I've felt in the last three weeks.

Frustration at having very limited funds with which to fly. Lots of bills have been due lately, which has put a pinch on my wallet. I really hope that I find some new cash soon and can get back on a regular schedule for planes.

On the other hand, I had the opportunity to fly two new aircraft: a Grumman Yankee and a Baron 600 twin.

The Yankee was at Livermore Muni in California. I had a three-day conference at eBay in San Jose, and (thanks to ridiculous ticketing by JMR) found myself in CA 6 hours before the first get-together. Sans luggage (courtesy American Airlines).

Arrived at San Jose International at 11:30 and to Livermore by about 1:15. Read up in the POH on flight characteristice of the Grumman; they seemed similar to a 152 except for a different flaps system (not Fowlers).

Met the CFI (John) and did a thorough preflight. I asked a lot of questions and it took a while, but learned enough to make it worthwhile. Differences: sumps under the wings (on your knees, sucka), electric fuel pump as part of the starting procedure, switch tanks every 15 minutes. Check wings for delamination and ailerons/flaps for excess play on the hinge (not a piano hinge like the Cessnas). Taxiing required differential braking since the nosewheel castered, but it was only a little dirfferent from what I was used to.

Then we're off!

Used 25R and climbed, very slowly, to 3000' as we did a NE turnout off the downwind. It was warm and I'm sure the DA added a couple of thousand feet to the performance, as well as being at gross in the small Yankee.

We flew past Bushy Peak and out toward Byron Airport. Did some steep turns in each direction and three stalls. Flew around the area and saw what sights we could...the haze made it hard to see anything from our altitude.

After a half hour, turned back through Altamont Pass and back direct to LVK. Landed with power on 25R and made the l-o-n-g taxi back to Attitude Aviation where we started.

Total time: 0.8 hours. Cost w/ instructor: $97.

After the trip, JMR and Andy met me in Austin in Andy's (borrowed) Baron for the trip back to Bryan. I flew it from AUS to CFD. Pretty cool.

200 MPH at 3200' for less than 30 minutes got us home. Andy did a lot of the detail work, but I feel like it was a good introduction to nighttime, complex, multi-engine flight. Lots to remember: retracts, prime engine, two of everything to adjust, electric trim, flies like a brick without power, etc. etc.

The landing was challenging but it worked. Kinda scary trying to listen to Andy and do what he says and also fly the plane. I guess it was mostly "get the thing in position to land, kill power, flare and brake" that did it.

I tell you what: I'd be spoiled in a hurry with that thing. It was like driving a Mercedes or Cadillac after nothing but Yugos and Chevys to this point. Everything automatic and smooth. If it weren't for the high cost-of-entry, I'd be working to join that club!

Monday, July 22, 2002

What a beautiful night for flying!

Went to Livingston (00R) at dusk via VOR alone (i.e. no GPS), then to CXO, then back to Easterwood.

2.1 hours cross country under a full moon and clear skies...VFR flight following the whole way. It doesn't get any better.

Oh, yeah. It could have been a little better; I had a go-around at Livingston when my final approach was too high and short. I called it early, though, and fixed things up the next time around.

I needed that fix...too much work lately and not enough time for reflection. I needed to work away the rust as well...John R had lots of, um, suggestions along the way of stuff I'd forgotten or slipped up on. He should know: he just completed a six-hour x-c trip to GTU and then Corpus.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Another day, another new experience. This time it was solo to AUS to pick up JMR. Lost my GPS for the first ten minutes of the flight, so I wandered around to establish a VOR heading, then fiddled with Anywheremap and the GPS to get both working. Got 'em going, then had to avoid several storm cells on the way to Austin that I had hoped had already passed. They hadn't.

To make a long story short, contacted Austin Approach 118.80 about twenty nm out to the NE, they handed me to another approach, who handed me off to the tower, who all together guided me to a straight-in landing to RW 17L.

No flaps, 120 kias until threshold assured, kill power, glide, touch on mains, slow all the way to the end, then turn off and get progressives to Signature Aviation (second FBO on the right after making a left on Bravo, in case you were wondering.

Signature gave me a little green Ford Focus while 5400J was gassed (8 gal), and I picked up John at the terminal. He flew direct back to CLL, which is why his route is so, well, direct.

Still, it was fun and challenging, at least to me, dodging rainshowers.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Time to write about the latest flight to give me butterflies in my stomach...VFR to Hobby (HOU) in class B airspace. June 17 was the date, and we left about 6:30 pm. John R, Andy and I planned to take 5400J direct to Hobby, then to Houston Southwest (AXH), then back to Easterwood.

Preflight was pretty routine. Gas was full, John did much of the outside work while I checked weather and fussed with the GPS/iPaq arrangement. Finally, all was set and we taxiied down to the business end of 34, got cleared and (after a long takeoff roll) we're off!

Turned out to the right, climbed over TAMU and then assumed heading 125 for Navasota at around 3000'. John got his GPS/iPaq combo working and I used it as a directional, following the thin green line direct. Requested and received flight following from Houston Center (120.4), squawked the transponder and settled in. The flight went pretty quickly, and before we knew it, Houston's skyscrapers loomed. I didn't have the time to enjoy the view too much, what with tuning radios, starting a descent, monitoring Approach, looking for runway 12L, etc., but from what I saw it was definitely cool.

Out of the distance, runway 12 loomed. At first, it was just a mass of dark-colored clearing, then gradually turned into two runways sandwiching a taxiway. We were dead on line and (at HOU's request) keeping our speed up on descent (125 KIAS). Killed the engine over the fence and glided in flaps-up to a pretty nice landing, I guess.

We taxiied over to Fletcher Aviation to look at the Velocity there (along with many other craft...they're a Gulfstream repair place, I think). Before long, it was time to head to AXH. Called Clearance Delivery and requested VFR, 3000' to Houston Southwest. Then called Ground, who directed us to runway 22 and Juliet. After a runup, tower cleared us for TO on 22 (left turn from taxiway J), which had about 2300' available. I pulled it out a little steep, but Andy salvaged it by nosing down until airspeed increased sufficiently, then climbed. I think Tower handed us off to Departure eventually, but it took a long time and I'm not sure today if we ever got handed off or just continued monitoring Tower. He directed me to Houston Southwest, between the TALL towers, and I set it down OK. Total time: about 10 minutes.

Our reason for going to AXH in the first place was for Andy to take a check-out ride in a Baron 600 (twin 300hp engines). It was f-a-s-t. With an engine out (simulated) it still felt like we climbed quicker than with OJ. We crusied along at 2500' and 200 MPH north and south through a corridor that included a few landings at Brazoria, site of my first night x-c landing.

Finally, around 11 pm, it was time to get back. John took the controls and guided us through the blackness to CLL, topped off by an instrument approach and landing. Very nice.

Sunday, May 12, 2002

I've had a couple of interesting flights recently...none long, but all remarkable, at least a little.

Flew to Giddings with Chris and Mick a few weeks ago. The skies were low (<2000) but winds were fairly calm, so off we went! We had trouble finding the airport once at Giddings, but caught sight of some RV's in the air and sniffed after them to the field.

The folks there were great! Filled up OJ with gas and put $10 in the kitty, and enjoyed all-we-could-eat pancakes, sausage and orange juice! Walked the ramp, saw a bunch of RV's and some other craft...all too soon it was time to leave, but we'll be back for sure.

Last week I took Mom and Dad for a spin around College Station. The skies were hazy, so we didn't go far, but they enjoyed a smooth ride and took lots of pictures. I hope that becomes a ritual of sorts for every family visitor. It was fun.

Then yesterday I did 5 takeoffs-and-landings at CLL in 20 kt gust 25 winds from 170 for practice. The landings were pretty good, all in all, and in the middle I had to go to the ramp while a military fly-by took place for TAMU graduation. Then back up for 2 more touch-and-goes with JMR as a passenger. Excellent again, and exciting as I turned downwind, banking like a surfboard catching a wave.

My charts for the Georgia trip came last week, so I've got planning to do soon. I love it!

Monday, April 15, 2002

The last few flights have been for fun: another lunch at Carl's (Weiser), Hilltop Lakes, a couple of trips with the kids...

I had hoped to go to the Georgetown Tamale breakfast on Saturday (4/13) but couldn't get VFR weather until 11AM. The plane had to be back by 1, so Chris and Ben and I flew high (up to 6000') around Caldwell, did a couple of landings at Hearne for practice, and then back to CLL.

Ben got a kick out of flying the plane up high, though he could barely see out of the front windshield.

This Friday, John R has his checkride scheduled. He aced the written part and I'm sure he'll do the same with his PPTS with Gary. He's spending the next few days with Andy doing his requisite instrument training. That was some of the best flying I've done, and I'm sure he'll have a good time, too.

I talked to Andy about a tailwheel endorsement, and he said fine, as soon as the Citabria gets up in the air again at Coulter. I also want to pursue an instrument rating, but will be content building hours of any kind for now. My tax refund (>$7000 I think) will get stuffed in the bank and hopefully provide a down-payment on a plane someday, but that's a different story. Right now, I think that Lou's RV-7 would be a great plane to own, if it can be had for $40K or so. We'll see how Diane feels over the next few weeks/months.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

"I don't know if I want anybody to walk away from the movie thinking about me specifically," he said. "I do want them to walk away asking themselves, 'Well, if I get a second opportunity at something, I should walk through that door.'"

Jim Morris, Devil Ray rookie pitcher at age 35

On reflection, that quote referring to the new movie, The Rookie, sums up the past seven months.

I've made two flights in the week since getting my ticket: I took the kids (Chris and Ben) around the patch for 35 minutes on Saturday, and then flew with John Romero and Mark Olivieri to Weiser Airpark (and Carl's Bar-B-Q) on Wednesday.

The trip to Weiser was with John as navigator (who also paid for half the flight), and he did a phenomenal job. All I had to do was fly the airplane. Straight through Navasota's VOR and on to EYQ. The lunch (on John) was delicious, too.

I think I like this PP/SEL thing.

Friday, March 22, 2002

Yesterday, I became a certificated pilot.

Took off from work around 1:15 pm to go the airport, grab the keys, and complete my x-c prep to Del Rio. Fortunately(!) due to the previous two flying portion cancellations, this was the third time I was going through this, so the only significant change was to drop from 8500' planned altitude to 4500'. Save some time and gas, and maybe not wear the patience of Gary (my DE) quite as much.

Rechecking my charts, I noticed that my Houston sectional has expired yesterday. A quick trip to the local FBO got me a new one, and I hoped it might make a difference if the DE sees I was attentive enough to have "all current information"...

At 3:15 I went out to 5400J (already fueled by phone) and took off to do a little practicing around the twin lakes. Steep turns, power-on and -off stalls, emergency descent. None are great, but most are passable, I hope. Now the clock reads 3:50 and it's time to pick out Coulter from the green flatlands below and head for the test. ATIS says winds are from 360 at 12 gusting to 20, so runway 32 is going to be a little breezy. Good opportunity to practice one last short field...get to 1157' pattern altitude, pull throttle, carb heat, trim up, flaps to 10, turn base, flaps to 20, nose down, turn final, flaps to 40..look at that sink rate! I'm not going to make the runway because the wind has pushed me out farther than I expected. Damn! Power up and hold it until the runway is assured. Power out. Bump it down. What slop. Oh well, maybe I got my bad one out of the way before the test.

Chock the plane, walk into Bryan Aviation and...Gary's not there! Had to run an errand, back in 10 minutes or so. I took the opportunity to brush up on my E6-B wind corrections, since I had visions of managing a diversion and having to report True Course, Wind Correction, Heading, Estimated Arrival Time, etc. the moment my new course was adopted.

Here comes Gary and my heart is blasting blood to my pits, which are sweating like there's no tomorrow.

"We ready to do it this time?" OK, body, knock off the overdrive and settle down.

"Show me this plane is legal to fly."

Airworthiness, Registration, POH, weight & balance.

Current annual, 100 hour inspection, altimeter, transponder...all the logbooks were opened, checked and closed nearly as quickly. Good, one concern down, only about a million to go.

"Go preflight the plane, I'll be out when you're done."

Cool. I think I'm pretty thorough when I preflight, and I hit all the checkpoints, but it's something I'm not sure I want to be graded on.

I hop in the left seat so he can see I'm ready. It's 4:45 and here he comes.

"Where're we going today?"

"Del Rio. It should be a beautiful day for a flight." High pressure has moved in, and we'll have a quartering tailwind for much of the way. "We'll be flying our flight plan at 4500' rather than 8500' for passenger comfort."

We reviewed the passenger briefing on the ramp, and I covered both sides of the Dauntless form. He seemed a little amused by it all, but I'm sure he's seen all this before. I announced our taxi to Coulter traffic, and requested any traffic to identify itself. No response.

I also added a couple of additions to the Dauntless list. "When I raise my right hand, it will signal you to be quiet because I need to hear something that requires my attention on the radio or inside the aircraft. Also, I'll raise my hand when I need to speak on the radio, so that you won't interrupt my transmission."

Then I told him that, for purposes of this flight when he wasn't acting as my DE, I was going to act as though he were my 12-year-old son. By that I mean that I'd try to explain the reason I was doing certain things in plain language. Again, quiet bemusement from the right seat.

"I'm going to taxi rather slowly because of the high wind. You might wonder why I'm "steering' the ailerons on the ground...that's to keep the wind out from under our plane so it won't flip."

And so it went. A couple more announcements to traffic. A complete 360 taxi in the runup area to scan for traffic (thanks, John R!) before taking the runway (Coulter is notorious for nardo ultralights.) Finally, rollout, rotation and takeoff! Here we go!

We hit an air bump, and my clipboard/clamsheel storage box on the dash comes flying down. Without taking my eyes away from outside traffic, I pick it out of midair, at the clasp so it doesn't fly open, and set it down in front of my seat. I couldn't do that again in ten tries, but today things just seem to be happening right.

"Nice catch." He smiles.

First heading, 233 over the Annex (checkpoint 1, 7 minutes in. I write it down, along with approx takeoff time, since I forgot to put that down before). Climbing to 4500. Straight into the warm bright western sun. There was a NOTAM about unmanned craft to 2500' at the Annex that I heard on ATIS, so I was pleased that I could announce that we were at 3000' there and climbing, well clear of any probems.

Tuned the VOR to 113.30, heading 249 and leveled out at 4500. Intercepted it around Caldwell (never did see the town, which was supposed to be checkpoint 2) when the DE spots a threatening line of storms directly ahead and orders a diversion to Cameron.

Ah, yes, the diversion. But Cameron? Where the heck is Cameron?"

Whip out the sectional, find Cameron about 10 miles outside of my 25-mile student pilot limit. Turn to heading 320, reach for my E6-B in the bag behind me and can't find it without looking away from the outside and/or instruments. Heck with it, I scan the chart and estimate our distance at 22 miles, IAS 95 kts, and remembering the northern 15 kt wind, estimate our arrival in about 18 minutes. He seems satisfied.

"OK. Heading 330 and configure for slow flight. Keep it at 4500 feet."

"Just a moment...let me do a couple of 180 clearing turns first." I clear the area, first left, then right. They seem to take forever, but I stick with it.Thanks for the reminder, Eric.

Heading 330. Trim nose up, Throttle back a knuckle or so. See airspeed drop. "Vs1 is 44 kts, so I'll fly around 1.2x that, or about 51 kts." Nose up, slower. Flaps to 20 (I think). Stall horn bleats. Pedal-steer through a s-l-o-w 270 left turn at his request. Another turn, this one to the right. Altimeter is moving a little, but my regular instrument scan is paying that one special attention.

"Power-off stall, please. Maintain a heading of 330."

Carb heat in, power down, Nose up. More...more..hear the horn going off, and mention that to Gary. Then, a mush break and recovery, though I'm about 30 degrees from my intended course. Hmmm, I hope that one was all right. Gary starts writing on his clipboard...

"Now a power-on stall, please."

Flaps up, carb heat in, climb, nose higher, higher, right rudder, RIGHT RUDDER, we can't go any slower, why won't the stall happen...there's the break! Relax yoke, rudder to level, recover to 76 kias. Again, my heading had drifted while I was approaching stall.

"I'd like you to do a steep turn. Your choice of direction, 45 degrees or more. Maintain altitude and roll out on 330."

I choose to the left and start. Fifteen, 30, 45. Hold it. Altitude starts falling, so a little elevator. Keep horizon where it is on the windshield and pay attention to altitude. Finally 320 appears and I roll out. Came up a tick or two short of 330 and kick a little left pedal in to push it the rest of the way. Did he notice?

By now we're at nearly 5000'.

"Put on the hood and we'll do some instrument work."

Hood on. Gary directs me through a series of climbs and descents, turns to a heading...I feel pretty good about these. At one point, I decided to demonstrate my understanding a little.

Gesturing to the turn-and-bank, I describe its function, again as if to my son. "Now, this shows me that we're in a standard rate turn. In a standard rate turn, we turn three degrees every ten seconds, so it allows us to change headings by timing turns."

Silence. My brain is knocking, and I finally answer. I had flipped the numbers! The DE's eyebrows are raised, expectantly.

"No, that's not right...(long pause)...umm, never mind." Stupid brain farts!

Actually, despite the slipup, right now I feel pretty good about how the whole test is going.

"Unusual attitudes. Head down, please"

He puts me in two or three positions, all of which are easy to identify and fix. I ask "Is it safe to assume you're not messing with my trim?" and he says he isn't, which makes recovery pretty easy, since the plane wants to fly in its last stable configuration. All I do is get the blue side up, level the wings and settle the airspeed.

"You may take your hood off."

I do, and blink a little at the bright sun.

"Oops, you seem to have lost power."

Fair enough. I've heard that DE's always pull power within gliding distance of some little unobtrusive airstrip and take great sport when the applicant misses it and aims for a field. Not this DE. There is nothing but flat brown and green fields below. I reach best glide of 65 kias and pick a nice patch of green, laid out so that I can fly a downwind to the south and land against the wind. I'll need to clear a short line of railroad radio wires, but nothing too bad. Just don't make the common mistake of coming in too high I turn 'final', dump flaps and come down to about 200', talking out loud about my planned landing the whole time. Miraculously, power comes back and, at the DE's request, we climb to ground reference maneuver altitude, 1000' (approx 700' AGL).

"I'd like to see some S-turns across that road and fence line there," gesturing with his hand.

I suggest a couple more clearing turns, this time looking above me for traffic. It then took me a bunch of jockeying to set up the turns so that I'll enter on downwind. The wind is strong enough that I'm nervous with the steep bank required on the first turn, and I get back to perpendicular a little early. Then, the turn to the right leaves me short. Nuts...those were about the worst S-turns I've done! Damn the wind! But the words of the Colonel come to mind: "Pray for'll get all kinds of slack in windy conditions."

"Climb out to 2000' and take me back to Coulter. Let's do some landings."

Now, 1000' (even 2000') doesn't offer you a good perspective in my part of Texas. Everything is flat, and landmarks are rather few and far between. But as luck would have it (and because that's what kind of a day it's been) I roll out EXACTLY where I had been practicing just before my checkride. West of the twin lakes, which are WNW of Coulter.

Heading 100 degrees. Cruise configuration. Warp speed, Mr. Sulu. Radio 4 miles out for traffic. DE: "Let's make this a short field, on the numbers."

Enter downwind at 45, radio all positions. Throttle, carb heat, pull yoke, 10 flaps, then 20. You know the drill.

Full flaps. Announce my speed on final as 59 plus 5 for the 10 kts extra gusts. Hit it about 100' past numbers, but within spec.

"Back taxi for short field takeoff."

Check the checklist. Flaps. Throttle. Climb out at Vx until clear of 50', then Vy.

I announce my intent and do it. Not bad. Mentally, My long list of PTS maneuvers that remain to be executed during this ride has dwindled to just a few: simulated soft field, go-around, slip. Which will this one be?

"Let's make it a soft field, landing and then directly into a soft-field takeoff."

Announce my position, throttle back, carb heat, flaps 10. I realize that I'm flying my finals way long by now, but I really don't want to change my setup in midstream, since it's been working up 'til now.

Start final at what seemed like 3/4 mile out, slowing down under full flaps, pushing into a wind that by now might be 15 kts. And I realize I'm short, and _not_ just by a little.

Power in. We lurch forward, then up. Trim up to slow then power out. We start a sink before I trim forward a touch, get over the numbers, kill throttle and flare. Bounce the mains pretty good, then settle them on the runway, but nosewheel still clear. Flaps up to 10, carbheat in, throttle up, glance at trim, rotate at 55 and stay in ground effect for a moment, then accelerate up. Flaps up once we're safe.

Probably my worst landing in a month, but I'm not looking back now. We're too close to the end of the test. Gary marks his clipboard.

"For this next one, I'd like you to forward slip to landing."

Deep breath. Slips are always an adventure to me. Here goes.

Around the pattern to (another long) final. I explain that I'll keep flaps at 10, since the aircraft is placarded against slipping with flaps.

Stay a little high and bank with opposite rudder. I lose 500 feet pretty fast, but the speed is still OK. About 100 AGL he waves it off. "Go around."

Since I knew a go-around had been coming, and I'd now exhausted my mental list of PTS requirements, I didn't mind that at all. I radioed the procedure and reentered the pattern.

Little smile. "Make a normal landing, Whatever That Is, and make it to a full stop." Ah, DE sarcasm! And I smiled when I realized he was right!

Once more around, to a 20 degree-flap landing on which I almost missed the 75' wide runway to the left. That wind keeps picking up. Ruddered it straight and steered it back to center ASAP after touching down, but still, not a thing of beauty. In fact, all my landings were plain ugly. "They don't have to be pretty. They just have to be safe," the words of my CFI came to mind.

We debrief afterwards, and the DE points out two rough spots: awareness of spin tendencies during the stalls, and the bouncy 'soft-field' landing. Both of which were expected, but in my mind they were only two of numerous areas that I knew I could improve on.

While waiting for my ticket to get typed up, I got word that a 182RG from another flying school did a gear-up at Easterwood (CLL) my home airport, while I was flying. The airport was closed for 90 minutes while that was cleaned up (no one hurt). I was grateful that my test was scheduled when it was, or I might have been trapped on the ground.

By the time I flew back to CLL, the field had reopened but the winds were 16 gusting to 26 from 010. Radioing ahead to the tower through the blackening sky I was directed to a right downwind with next contact at midfield. My instructor Andy, who knew I had been taking my checkride, was up teaching and heard my transmission. "Easterwood Tower, be sure that 00J has a licensed pilot in command before clearing him to land."

ATC went silent with confusion, and I laughed into my headset at my instructor's acknowledgement. He knew.

"Easterwood Tower, Cessna 5400J. Yes, there is a newly certificated pilot in command of 00J. At midfield, right downwind for landing."

Now it was Tower's turn to chuckle. "Congratulations! 00J cleared to land, runway 34."

"Clear to land, runway 34. 00J." In the ensuing radio silence, another distant pilot echoed his feelings: "New pilot? Way to go, congratulations!"

With the gusty winds, I had a little concern as I turned right base, final, and landed fast but smooth. Taxiing was wobblier than I ever felt due to the wind. Or maybe due to my adrenaline.

Tower calling: "00J, right on Bravo, remain this frequency to the ramp."

"Thanks, tower. 00J."

It had been quite a day.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Is it really March 19th already?

Since my last posting (after the cross-country to Waco) six weeks have passed. 5452D has pranged. I've passed my written test (with a 92) and the oral portion of my checkride (4 1/2 hours, of which maybe 2 1/2 was direct dialog, Q & A. There were times when I felt pretty good about my understanding of flight and flying, and times when I felt like an idiot. My major stumbling areas, which I hope to help remember by listing them here, were:

1. Airspace. Know Class G (unrestricted)
2. You need a Mode C transponder at over 10 000 feet MSL
3. To stay current, you need a bienniel flight review in addition to 3 T&L's and a current medical.
4. Reading METAR, don't forget about temp and dewpoint, and altimeter (barometric pressure) setting.
5. Learn how to read text WX forecasts!!!
6. How much can you tell about an airport from looking only at the sectionsl (things I missed were: paved runway, runway length classification, lighting among others).

Both Andy and Gary Gandy sat in on the test, which was fine because I got a couple of perspectives on most questions.

Then, Saturday, came the flight test. I did .5 hours with Andy in the AM, then returned at 3 PM to fly with Gary. To make a long story short, the entire test was scrubbed when I couldn't locate my driver's license (I'd left it in my overcoat when I returned from Boston last week). Damn.

Now we're rescheduled for Thursday 3/21 at 4 pm.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Well, my second cross-country solo is history. This one was comparatively short, CLL-ACT-T15 (Marlin)-CLL. The route was

There were a few differences between this trip and my first solo xc: I used flight following for the entire trip, the clouds cover was overcast 6000 (instead of unlimited ceiling) and the total time was just 2.2 hours.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

The last two weeks have seen my first two cross-country flights. Today's was my first solo x-c, while last week's was a long dual (actually, a trio since John R and I split time with Andy.

Here's today's path, courtesy of my new GPS:

It looks crummy in only 640 pixels. but if you open it in its own window it's a little more readable.

I'll write up some details as I find time, but suffice it to say I'm starting to feel like a pilot now!

Monday, November 26, 2001

Well, well. It's been a while!

I've put in about 8 hours since the last entry, and all in all have been pretty pleased with my progress. I've made numerous landings and they've mostly been OK...practicing slipping to a landing is challenging. I've also been working on my stalls and ground reference, navigation (day and night), some crosswind practice, steep turns and 45-degree ones.

All to prepare for a checkride sometime in my future.

Things I need to work on? Slips to a landing, short finals, power-off landings, full-flap landings. My understanding of airspace leaves a lot to be desired, but I'm hoping that Comm1 will help in that area. I also still need my solo cross-country (after our dual cross-country this Friday) day and night.

I've ordered a GPS and AnywhereMap software to go with my Jornada 525. That promises to help me navigate accurately over distance, though I like the challenge of VOR practice as well.

Our trip this Friday is CLL to ERV (Kerrville) to Hunt to Lake Jackson and back to CLL. I'm hoping it takes about 8 hours, 5 in the air. We've got the C-172/180 (N5452D) reserved, so I hope the airspeed will be around 135 KIAH.

If it sounds like lots is going on, well, it is! As my skills improve, my enthusiasm is getting hard to contain...just got to keep it harnessed for another month or so...

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Someday I'll read these notes and laugh. Right now, though, I'm frustrated. The Club's liability insurance lapsed, which means: (1) we're grounded for a week while new insurance is put into place, and (2) it's gonna cost more.

Cat thinks the monthly dues will increase to cover, which is fine I guess. We'll see. Meanwhile, I've got to go nearly two weeks without a fix!


Saturday, October 27, 2001

A few flights to catch up with.

Back on Tuesday I went up a couple of times. The first was a dusky practice between CLL and Navasota. Two touch and back-taxi and go's in Navasota and one at Easterwood were great if only because they were uneventful.

Later, John R and I made a run to Coulter under low skies. Technically the clouds were broken at 1300' with a ceiling much higher. Trouble was, it was impossible to see where the clouds were and weren't, so I ended up shooting back and forth at little over 1000' MSL. As usual, I misplaced Coulter (thinking it more North than it actually is) so had to cross West-to-East over midfield before landing on 14 after a left pattern. We then scooted back to Easterwood the same way. Winds were close to 10 kts at from about 180, so there was a slight xwind, but the biggest challenge was the cloud cover.

Today I made a night flight to Caldwell and back in 5452D. I really wanted to practice navigation, and got a good opportunity as I approached CLL from the West and was directed to radio the tower from 2 miles SW for a left base to landing on 34. I think my communications have improved a lot in the past few weeks, and tonight presented no problems on that front.

Oh yes, and I was directed to take off from CLL on RW 28, which was a first for me! I asked the tower for directions to the runway, and he was very helpful. First time I was acceleratiing with McKenzie Terminal on my right for a change.

I notice the last 4 flights have all been in C172's. Those two (52D and 5400J are really comfortable. I wish they were a little cheaper, but for an extra $10/hr I expect I'll continue to fly them when I can.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

My last two flights have been as uneventful as they were different from each other.

Wednesday I took a late time to do some night flying in ended up .2 hours! I did one pattern and landing and parked it; the tenths digit of the radio was burnt out and I didn't feel comfortable. Now I feel like I could've done more, but it was the right decision at the time.

Friday afternoon John R and I shared 5400J in a trip to Brenham (11R) with Andy. John soloed two touch and go's after I navigated down there. I also did some stalls and steep turns under Andy's eye (pretty poor performance, especially since John aced the piss out of all his maneuvers). But the upshot is that I got signed off on all the local airports, and in C172 as well as the C152 I already had.

I'm hoping to do a circuit today at 6pm...will write more when that's accomplished.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001


Tonight I wanted to practice (1) pattern flying [1300', square turns, precise speed control], (2) tower communications, and (3) landings. And guess what?

Everything fell into place just fine!

I knew on arrival at CLL that I had 75 minutes from preflight to tie-down, so I could pick up Mick from running chains at his school's football game. It was 6:15p.

6:15 --->The plane needs gas (of course...I'm the gasman) and thorough preflight (it hadn't been flown today)
6:40 ---> "Clear!" Ignition. "Easterwood ground, Cessna 49785 at the Flying Club with information November, ready for taxi for pattern work and touch & go's"
6:45 ---> Runup complete. Easterwood tower, Cessna 785 at Charlie and RW34 ready for takeoff"
6:47 ---> Airborne! Tower directs me to a close right climb into the pattern.
6:49 ---> "Easterwood tower, Cessna 785 on right downwind midfield for landing on 34"
6:51 ---> First landing, to full stop at request of tower as jet using RW10 for takeoff goes across in front of me.
6:52 to 7:18 ---> Two touch & go's and one more landing to full stop as Seneca flew across RW10 in a low pass at 800' and tower gave me the option to touch & go or stop. I chose stop.
7:22 ---> Final landing, leave active runway. "Easterwood tower, Cessna 49785, thanks for your help tonight, you made that practice really easy!"

Landings were all good, two-wheel. Tower directed me to close right pattern, close left pattern, and three normal left patterns. Also called my base twice and gave me the option of a right 270 turn to base out of downwind on a left pattern to allow an Air Force trainer in from 5 miles, which worked great! All the pattern turns were pretty square, although I flew crosswind a little further than I would have liked several times. Not ridiculous, but made for a little longer base. The longest final was maybe a mile and a half.

Parked it, window-shaded it, DOUBLE-CHECKED THE MASTER, and tied it down. Picked up Mick 7 minutes late, but not bad.

I still need a few hours up there for some extended (mini) cross-country to all my airports. Maybe soon...

Monday, October 15, 2001

It's better to be lucky than good.

Yesterday was a good day of flying. And, coupled with some wonderful weather and lucky coincidence, it became memorable.

I flew for a half-hour at about 1:30, basically having time for a single T&L in 785 before coming in to share a lesson in 5452D with John R. 785 has been a pain lately because the radio is intermittent, and yesterday was no exception. After one or two suspected transmission misses I unplugged the phones and blasted the speaker. Not too much fun, but the practice was good. Landing was fair, one skip, but routine.

Taxied home to John and Andy preflighting the 172. It was decided that I would take off, and I was asked for a destination.

"Brenham," I responded, "because I want to get a solo there to open up my world." Everyone agreed and off we started. This particular 172 has a 180-hp Lycoming engine, and it climbed like a banshee. Before we knew it we were leveled off at 4500', heading 180 to Brenham at about 120 kias. At that altitude 11R was visible from 15 miles away, and as we tuned their frequency it became clear right away that something was up.

"Brenham traffic, we've got three military jets on final for runway 34."

Military jets? I become a little uneasy at the prospect of entering an uncontrolled pattern with military aircraft. Not my flying, but communications, has me very self-conscious at the moment.

About then John catches sight of the airport grounds. I'm too busy looking for traffic to notice, but from the back seat I hear "Hey! It's an airshow! Let's go down and check it out!" Andy (thankfully) takes the radio and we enter a left pattern for landing, which I manage (though once again I neglect to wheelie in and drop to three wheels right away. In my defense though, this plane is so smooth that I didn't even know my nose was on the ground.)

The Brenham Air Show to which we dropped in consisted of 3 or 4 Confederate Air Force planes (A 4-engine B-17 and a couple of fighter trainers). These were powerful piston engine craft, and they all burned oil like nobody's business. We also saw a Lake seaplane and a Pitts aerobatic. Saw the bomber and a trainer do a few laps around the sky, then it was time to take off.

John navigated to Navasota and did a go-around and landing, then I switched back to pilot. One go-around and three landings later I was soloing in the 172.

Man you've got to pull back to keep the nose-wheel up! I landed the first one fine with a little skip and the second one felt fine too, but the guys let me know that I nosed it. Damn! I have to get that plane again and feels so comfortable to fly that I want to get good, because that thing is made for cross-country! Headroom, legroom, power...$55/hour is a lot, but the extra $15 buys so much.

I hopped out, John and Andy hopped in, and they did two quick ones before Andy joined me to watch John do his solo. Two great landings later, we were all together again and speeding back to Easterwood.

"Those were the best two I ever did," John confided. He's right...they were good. One more solo and he's free.

As for me, I want to practice a little more. Maybe a round-robin of Coulter-Hearne-Caldwell-Navasota-CLL with two T&G's each is just what I need. Better set aside a couple of hours, but this'll be fun. We'll see what the weather holds this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

I want to be a pilot

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Seems like each flight lately has been one of firsts. Today brought two firsts: First unsupervised solo, and first radio failure!

Actually, radio failure overstates things a little. Here's the scoop:

I reached the airport at 4:40. Paid for gas to top it off, and went through a routine preflight on 49785. Had some trouble with the radio, though. I could never get it so that I could hear myself speak through my headset. I ran a radio check ("Easterwood Ground, Cessna 49785 radio check 1..2..3" and listened for a reply, which came promptly, "Cessna 785, Easterwood Ground read you.") So I thought I could manage the inconvenience of not hearing myself, as long as Tower could hear me. By now it's almost 5:20.

And away I went to 16 & Bravo to runup. The next indicator that something was amiss was when I announced "Ready to takeoff" to the tower. I didn't hear any response so I announced it again. The tower came back with "Can you hear me 785?" which told me I had missed something. "Say again" says I. "Can you hear me?" says tower. "Affirmative." "Clear for take-off on 16." "Clear for takeoff on 16, 785."

And off we go. Thinking back, I should have planned a contingency in case the radio went out (or aborted the flight...duh!), but we've jiggled it in the past to get it to work, and I thought I'd do that again. Midfield downwind, however, it became clear that jiggling wasn't working, nor was swapping to the copilot jacks, and I was missing transmissions from the tower. Not all of them, fortunately, but enough that I was worried. Of course, I should have flipped on the speaker, but hindsight is 20-20.

I did manage to echo their clearance to land on the second transmission, and announced the landing to a full stop. ATC stacked two planes (1 Lear and 1 turboprop, I believe) behind me and directed each of them to do a 360 to slow them up behind a "slow Cessna on final". Kinda embarrassing, but at the time I was too involved in landing to take offense.

I started at a nice leisurely 65 KIAS (carb heat out, 1700 RPM, flaps at 20) approach from about a mile and 1000', then heard ATC's description of events and decided to nose down, throttle up and power in. Reached about 85 KIAS ("watch out with those flaps"), nosed up as I approached the numbers to drop airspeed, and floated down to a not-too-bad-under-the-circumstances landing (touched, then floated about a foot or two, then greased in). Taxied to RW 10, back to Alpha and back to tie-down. Exhaled. Heard ATC clear the planes behind me as I was leaving the active. I squawked the radio back at the clubhouse, and hope it gets taken care of soon. Flying's not as much fun when your communications are buggy (<---understatement).

Andy said later he had heard the whole thing and said that ATC was being difficult, but I was just grateful for their patience.Since we talked for a few moments about what happened, and since all his information came from monitoring the radio while he was teaching in 15Mike, and since he didn't say anything about my communications, I'll conclude that I sounded halfway capable up there.

So I got that going for me.

0.3 hours as PIC. I like the way that looks in the logbook.

Sunday, October 07, 2001

"Come to the edge."
            "We might fall."

"Come to the edge."
            "It's too high!"


And they came,
and he pushed.

And they flew.

— Christopher Logue.

Today was my third supervised solo. I wanted to combine it with some cross-country practice and tick off a few more airports.

The day started auspiciously when John R successfully soloed at Coulter. He came out to wish me well after his flight, and was noticeably missing the back of his Captain Hawaii shirt, the same one he took his first lesson in! Said he banged down a couple of times, but hey! That's what practice is for! Way to go, guy! Unfortunately, I was soon to find out that banging it down was something I would wish I could do...

We flew CLL to T72 (Hearne), then to 14R (Caldwell) pretty much by VOR and hit them all pretty good. I also soloed at T72 and 14R, so as to get them signed-off in my logbook, which was also pretty good.

In between, however, it was pretty ugly.

CLL-T72 went as I hoped, at 3000' and 100 KIAS. Entered downwind for a left pattern and had to lose a bunch of altitude AND airspeed, which is a lousy combination. Went flying into the downwind and had to jerk with the flight controls all the way downwind and into base. Kept right on jerking with stuff down to the go-around (start counting...that's the first). Climbed a little too meekly for Andy's taste (Note to self: Never again) back to pattern altitude for another try. Came in too high. Go-around (#2). Andy's turn (I hadn't heard the dreaded phrase "My plane" in a long time. I hate hearing that phrase.) He let the plane fly itself to a high approach, but landed it fine. My turn. Around we go. Let plane fly itself with gentle proddings. Good one! Andy gets plane.

Once more unto the breach. Once more a go-around (#3 if you're keeping score). Then again around and a good landing as I finally stopped fighting the plane up and just let it fall. Back taxi, pick up the professor, and we're off to Caldwell.

Once more my VOR skills paid off, as we made a direct flight to Caldwell (thanks Fly!2K for the practice). Entered a left downwind by a rather circuitous route. Once again fast. Once again couldn't slow down too well. This is a narrow runway (60') and there was a little cross wind, and, well, you know the rest (#4). Lecture from Andy. Let plane fly. Let plane land. Dump Andy. Up and around. Fighting crosswind on the approach. Oh well, what's another one? Number five...'Round again and got it down fine with no flaps (My thinking? What the's not like the flaps are dragging me down anyway). Pick up the ball and chain and realize we've been gone for over an hour and a half.

Back to Easterwood for a tower-assigned 2-mile right base that turned into about a 5 mile approach. Plain landing, a little floating but not bad.

The scorecard at the end of the day? Five go-arounds, five landings (two of them solo). Two hours airtime, two new airports signed off on. I know what you're thinking, and you're right! ("Some pilot he is! Ruining 5 out of 10 perfectly good go-arounds by putting the plane down.") Sorry. If the landing's not right, I go around. Period. Then I get to write a goofy entry like this instead of "Damn. I bent the prop tonight when I bumped myself off this 60' wide runway..."

And most importantly, third supervised solo out of the way. I'm now free (or at least, I'm a bird in a 50-mile aviary rather than a 42" cockpit. Tweet!

Friday, October 05, 2001

"The three best things in life are a good landing, a good orgasm, and a good shit. A first solo at night is one of the few opportunities to experience all three at the same time."

-Author unknown

Have a look at the map of my world. I hope to keep it growing!

Went to Navasota (60R) Thursday night. Did a touch & back-taxi & go with Andy, then two alone. Pretty routine, but started to get really dark and the runway lights weren't reponding to 7 squawks! Turns out they want 5 squawks only to turn on. I found that out as we were leaving.

Pretty stiff wind from 160 today...10 knots gusting to 17. Slowed us down going south and pushed us quicker on return. Contacted the tower and tried to squawk the lights on (while they still had control!) and they let me know that's a no-no. Andy was pretty laid back about it.

Routine left pattern, overshot turn to final and had to squirrel a turn back to track 16. Normal landing, but no grease. A little sideways motion and I hung up in the ground effects again.

I've got to work on slowing my flare; it's often leveling out about 15' over the runway instead of 3-5' where I'd like it. But Easterwood is very forgiving--just hold the flare and eventually you return to earth.

And so we did. Two supervised solos down, one to go!

Monday, October 01, 2001

I'll run my hand gently over the wing of a small airplane and say to him, "This plane can teach you more things and give you more gifts than I ever could. It won't get you a better job, a faster car, or a bigger house. But if you treat it with respect and keep your eyes open, it may remind you of some things you used to know -- that life is in the moment, joy matters more than money, the world is a beautiful place, and that dreams really, truly are possible." And then, because airplanes speak in a language beyond words, I'll take him up in the evening summer sky and let the airplane show him what I mean.

— Lane Wallace, 'Eyes of a Child,' Flying magazine, February 2000.

Tonight I soloed.

We taxied out to CLL RW34 at about 7:15, just as the sun was touching the horizon. Saturday had been such a disaster that I was looking forward to some landings: 2, 4 ,6, 8 or many as possible to get my feel for the approach back, that I had felt so sure of just 3 days ago but which seemed so alien now.

To recap Saturday morning, I made three poor approaches to CFD, never getting within 50' of the runway. With each go-around my confidence slipped lower until, by the time I came to the depressing realization that the solo effort would end, without a solo, I began a round of second-guessing and confidence deflators that I had not experienced since maybe high school.

I left the plane Saturday at 9AM completely discouraged.

So my sights were set considerably lower as we lifted off to distant CFD (well, at least 8 or so miles away) it right and build for the future. Andy had done a short preflight with John R and me, explaining to grab a handful of power (to 1700 RPM), 10 degree flaps and 2 1/2 wheels of trim as the plane drew abeam of the numbers, then ride the downwind leg to base by getting everything stable. If everything's stable when you turn final, the descent to landing should be a piece of cake.

I had experienced this before, but forgotten the step-by-step method, so the refresher was very handy.

We circled CFD at 2000' MSL and announced our entry into the pattern (123.0 MHz) at 1300' and the top of the downwind leg, for landing at CFD RW32. A mile later I pulled back power (carb heat out), nosed up 2 1/2 wheels trim and waited for the speed to settle down to about 75 KIAS before adding flaps. Turning base at about 70, my hands left the yoke to convince myself that we were on a stable glide, then I waited to line up on final. Turned it to final a little short (damn!) but that was easily corrected...saw I was a little high and added 10 more flaps, plus nosed down a little (but not much; Andy was watching airspeed with an eagle eye). Cut power a few hundred yards out and glided in to a pretty greasy one. No sideways pull on the wheels, just straight and slippery. We slowed, back-taxied to RW32 and took off.

The second time through, at the top of downwind, Andy asked if I wanted to do a simulated power-off landing. "Sure." I announced our intentions to Coulter traffic and pulled power. We were plenty high, so I flew quite a bit of the pattern before settling onto a medium short (but high as usual) final. Since we had no power, there was no problem flapping out the excess altitude and we touched down for smooth landing number two.

"A few more of these and I'll have my nerve back to start talking solo," I was thinking to myself. Which was about when Andy opened the door.

"What the...wait! I'm not ready," my mind barked. I heard myself tell him "Let's just do a few more so I can get my confidence..."

"No, why don't you do a couple by yourself. I'll walk back to the end of the runway, and when I get there, you pick me up and we'll go back to Easterwood." And he got out and shut the door. "I don't have a radio, so I won't be able to hear you if you get in trouble. But you can call me on my cell phone. And don't forget your right rudder," were his final words of wisdom. I was alone.

Really alone.

Well. So this is solo. I glanced at the right seat. It looked strange with just a belt and no occupant. I heard the familiar hum of the engine and found myself turning to back-taxi to 32. Straightening out the pedals and giving some taxi-throttle, it was time for a little prayer. It would be nice to quote an elegant phrase that I recited to my Maker, but it was more like God, keep an eye on me here. I really want to do this. Don't let me die.

I turned back up RW32, double-checked my carb-heat, trim and flaps, and full-throttled to the unknown.

I know, I know you've heard it a hundred times. But it's true. The plane really does fly better without a CFI in the right seat. We (my plane and I) jumped skyward and didn't look back till we were 1000' ASL and turning crosswind. Before I knew it we were 1300' and turning downwind.

"Throttle back to 2200 or so.Nose up. Keep speed under control until we're abeam of the numbers. Keep altitude at 1300'" my mind worked efficiently and my hands and feet followed its commands. I radioed traffic at midfield. Reached the numbers. Throttle out to 1700. Carb heat out. Flaps to 10. 2 1/2 wheels of trim. Uh-oh! We're not descending slowly! Man, the plane REALLY wants to fly without Andy here!" Throttle back to 1400-1500 or so. There we go. Start the descent.

Here comes Messina Hof where the base leg starts. Shallow turn into base. Watch for the runway from under the wing. Here it comes...turn to final. A little high, so (check speed to make sure I'm OK there) flaps to 20. Good, now we're goin' down. Point to the numbers. Speed at 75 (a little quick) but stable. Hard to see the numbers because it's getting dark, but damn if I'm gonna squawk the lights on now. Wait to flare...wait...wait. Flare. Float (Hold it...hold it...keep it there til we're back in ground effect) Whew. Back down. Ease back...steady...3..2..1..grease.


Well, there's one. I back taxi to start another one, but now the apprehension is replaced by excitement and cautious confidence. Anouncing my intentions to take off, I kill flaps and carb-heat, wheel to take-off trim and throttle up. (Another little prayer.) And up we go. Oh yes, as I take off I realize that the runway is now dark, so I squawk the lights on. That makes sense, to turn 'em on as I'm leaving. But I know I'll be around in 5 minutes and they'll still be there.

Pretty routine this time. Less float on the landing, but another good one. Let's see, where did Andy want to meet me? I get on the radio. "Coulter traffic Cessna 785 at the north end of runway 32. I'm missing a CFI on this plane. If anyone has seen him, please tell him to meet me at the south end of runway 32."

No response. What's the point of wasting my comedic talent if no one is listening?

Andy waves me down at the end of the runway and I pop the door open.

"Congratulations. Those looked really good." That meant a lot, because I thought they were pretty good, too.

"You floated a little on that first one. The engine sounded a little fast..." He noticed "but then I heard you cut it and brought it down just fine."

The ride back to Easterwood was highlighted by a high-speed approach to the VASI lights. Red on top, white on bottom. 120 KIAS. Kill power crossing University onto RW16. G-L-I-D-E...stretch....touchdown and ease back to wheelie. Taxi home.

We're done. It's been an eventful night.

Saturday, September 29, 2001

"They can because they think they can."

I've been sitting here at the keyboard for fifteen minutes trying to think of something to say. No, that's not quite right. I can't choose the words to adequately express my thoughts, my emotion.

Seven weeks ago, on August 10, I sat behind a yoke for the first time with more questions than answers.Is this the right thing for a 43-year old husband and father of three to be trying? How badly do I really want to fly? Can I overcome the inevitable disappointments and bad days? Can my body and brain learn something new, and become proficient in these new, strange patterns? I think there are times in everyone's life that serve as milestones: marriages, births of children, victories, graduations, significant "firsts"...but the spotlights of such accomplishments tend to be focussed disproportionately on the young; the old are often relegated to 'lifetime achievement awards' or 'years of service' pens. Old dogs don't learn new tricks.

And after growing up, it becomes easy to accept that challenge and thrill and risk are best left to those younger.


Youth is a state of mind defined by challenge and thrill and risk. By confidence and anticipation. By the realization that the best days in life lie ahead. Tomorrow, I may solo. Today, I am a child again.

We did things in the plane tonight I never dreamed of. I knew that today was to be "unusual attitude and recovery" day, but as night fell (I didn't get in the plane until nearly 8:00) I became a little uneasy about my ability to discern the ever-important horizon during my recovery. As it turns out, I needn't have worried.

Took off on old familiar 34 and climbed out to the west at about 68 KIAS, to 5000'. Andy explained the principle of unusual attitude recovery, that he would place the plane in screwed-up positions and I would recover to straight-and-level, usually by (1) killing power (2) levelling wings to nearest horizon (3) climbing out. There are a few a steep turn the opposite rudder seems to pull you out of it pretty quick; in a power-off stall you need to add power rather than cut it (there's none to cut); and so on.

In fact, I spent the half-hour before my session wandering the flight line, arms extended, assuming various plane attitudes and jamming my "rudder" foot to break an imagined spin, or pulling/punching my "throttle" fist as needed. I was a child again, smiling, laughing, and unafraid. Not foolishly unafraid of dangerous maneuvers. Unafraid that my mind and body would let me down. That was the first time since I started that I knew.

So here we are, back at 5000', and Andy says he'll start setting up some attitudes. And he gives me a hood.

"Shut your eyes while I set things up. Once it's ready, you are to recover only by instruments. No looking out the window."

He threw me steep, twisting spiral descent. A climbing stall. Trim stalls and trim-way-out-of-trim. Low airspeed. High airspeed. Damn-near inverted...and I recovered them all. Some took a couple of tries, but none took three.

I knew.

Power-off approach. A little squirrelly near the runway (Note to self: FLY THE ARPLANE ON THE GROUND!!! STALL IT!!!) Then to a touch-and-go and up to 2000' directly over the end of the runway for another power off landing. this one required a slip. I initially started slipping the wrong way, but after Andy got my technique straightened out, I slipped it down to about 60', then straightened it out and hit a pretty smooth landing. Remembered to keep pulled back, let feet do the walking on the landing yet, totally in the dark except for runway twinkle lights..

Tomorrow (actually today now) at 7 AM we meet at Easterwood and decide on a solo. It may happen and it may not, but it really doesn't matter now. Oh, I want to be able to fly on my own time, practice, communicate. But whether or not tomorrow I'm in the plane by myself, my eyes are now looking beyond the solo toward a certificate.

This old dog's just getting started...0.8 hrs/16.0 total

Friday, September 28, 2001

Wednesday was exhilarating!

Late afternoon saw 1.1 hours of touch-and-go's, seven in all. All of them were, er, not bad. A couple were really pretty good, IMHO. Mainly I learned to relax during the process. Carb heat. Cut throttle back. Flaps at 10. Speed at 65 KIAS. Nose down at numbers. Couple of fingers on yoke. Flaps at 20. Fairly steep descent. Flare. Pause 1..2..3. Touch. Rudder. Then carb-heat-in, full throttle, flaps retracted. Rotate. Hold. Climb out. Kewl.

Later did a half-hour or so night flight around College Station, with simulated power-out landing. All instruments out. Hit it pretty good, small bounce but held controls steady and settled down. My adrenaline is flowing pretty good right now, but not only from the excitement of flying. I've got that inner feeling of 'getting my hands around' the idea of piloting a plane. This is the first time I've felt this way...same feeling as when you work out an algorithm that you know will work and can't wait to get back to the computer: like you've finally 'figured it out.'

Also finished rev 1.0 of my logbook. I'd like to stick a PHP interface into it so I can easily enter new flights, but that'll have to wait 'til later.

I'm pumped about Friday!

Monday, September 24, 2001

Ouch! That was...interesting.

We did touch-and-goes today. The wind continued to be out of the North, today at 15 kt gusting to 18 (heading 010), so we used 34. I practiced taxi maneuvers on my feet before we took off. Climb into, dive away. Still don't coordinate my nosewheel (feet) with the wings (yoke) on the ground. That needs work.

Downwind was fast, and I frequently found myself with a longer final than I would have wanted. I need to practice getting ahead of the plane and acting, not reacting, to necessary setups for approach. As it was today, it always seemed I was behind. If I can find a way to develop good habits that don't require my exclusive full concentration to accomplish, life in the pattern will become much easier.

Managed a decent takeoff and entered the pattern downwind about 500' too high. Bled off altitude, but too slowly...need to yank the throttle back to lose that height quicker. Did first t-&-g and felt the wind push me to the left...was so distracted that I forgot to push in carb heat and raise flaps. I forgot the carb heat again a few t&g's later, but aside from that felt as though the landings were OK. I'm still getting used to the sensation of "flying the airplane down the runway."

Then came the last landing to a stop. Tower put me into a right pattern (it had been left all day) and as I flew south of A&M Andy pulled the power and told me to land the plane. Short term panic gave way to an assessment of speed and altitude and I realized I could make it to 34. Wanted to flare it to about 4 feet and fly the plane into the runway, but where I had thought it was 4' Andy tells me it's 15! Then I did something stupid...I dropped the nose and lost the 15' in a hurry. STUPID. I should have flown the plane down the runway to touchdown and instead I bounced the nosewheel and lost it to the right. Andy stabilized things and I taxiied to a stop, but not before John R got an eyeful of my worst touch of the day. That sucked.

On the other hand, the other four weren't too bad and I'm pretty confident that I could do the job myself when necessary. The FAA restrictions have set me behind, but with three good days this week, who knows?

0.9 hrs today/13.4 total

Yesterday was a trip. 1.8 hours. Total: 12.5 hrs.

Preflight felt new again, since it had been a couple of weeks since the plane was flown. Everything checked out fine, though. I was out of practice with my radio also. Tower and Ground were both 118.5, so that made it a little easier. Taxiing is becoming a piece of cake. Runup was a little nervous (as has become very typical for me...when will the butterflies stop?) but takeoff felt great and routine.

Took off from Easterwood on 34, and flew N then E to about 3000 AGL for some stalls.

Did some shallow and steep turns in the proess of clearing the area. Routine, but I'm trying to become more coordinated with the rudder. Then came the practice:

First, power on stall like this: lower power to maintain altitude at 65 kts, then increase attitude to speed of 55 kt. Increase power to full rich and pull up to a stall. Maintain right rudder to keep from breaking left, then (at break) return plane to level flight and climb out.

Next, power-off stalls. Slow flight (1700, carb heat) to 65 kts. Flaps to 20 or so. Increase attitude to stall. There won't be a break, because the prop is basically windmilling, so the front end will drop pretty straight. Correct by full power, carb heat off. Stop descent ASAP to straight level, then climb out.

An emergency descent came next, from about 4000' to about 1200' or so, as a 45 degree left turn to about 120+ KIAS round and round. Not bad really.

Did a few ground reference maneuvers: S's over a road (not bad) and turns around a point in both directions (also not bad). Then used VOR navigation to get back to Coulter Field. Took me a few moments to remember VOR use. I need more practice on Fly!2K.

We had heard there were parachutists over Coulter, so flew midfield at about 2000' AGL and then entered left pattern (with a longer than I wanted final) to a nice landing on CFD 32. All me! Taxied, stopped, watched the jump. Those guys are nuts!

Took off downwind (5 kts) on runway 14 and noted longer run and slower climb than upwind. But the wind was slight enough that it wasn't any problem at all. Flew S over Raintree and did some turns around a point (Wilderness) but nobody was home! They had all gone to Septemberfest! Reported my position to Easterwood as "south of the airport" (wrong!) and Andy corrected to "EAST of the airport". Flew pretty long final, without a pattern, and landed on 34 without incident.

Tell you what...this stuff is getting cool. I can't wait to get up later today!

Saturday, September 22, 2001

Tomorrow I fly (knock on wood). Thanks FAA.

Monday, September 17, 2001

For many of us, life is returning to its normal flow. For VFR pilots (and at least one frustrated student) "normal" remains in the future.

Fly!2k will have to do for now...

"The propeller is just a big fan in front of the plane to keep the pilot cool. Want proof? Make it stop; then watch the pilot break out in sweat."

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Numerous broadcasts over the last two days refer to September 11, 2001 as the day that "everything changed." This is not true.

Four flights were hijacked Tuesday of the many thousands that proceeded, or would have proceeded, normally. The perpetrators of the crimes used those four incidents to cause unimaginable damage. Thousands of families have felt the tremendous loss of one or more loved ones.

For all of those directly affected it can be argued that, indeed, everything has changed. But I propose that in fact, nothing has changed.

We live in a dangerous world, full of 4 billion people. Some have ideas vastly different from those that many Americans hold dear. For most of us, the risk of untimely death at the hands of others is small, much smaller than in much of the world. And we enjoy liberties that are the envy of many.

We must stand strong and united to preserve our liberties, and the benefits of a free society, to make it clear to forces of terror that their threats and actions cannot sway us from our beliefs in personal freedoms as they exist in the United States.

To restrict our own liberties as a consequence of these recent actions is to concede that, for now at least, the terrorists have won.

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary
Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

No flying today. Say a prayer. Give blood. Hug your kids.

Sunday, September 09, 2001

My Month as a Student

WednesdayNo rain; no visibility either.
ThursdayTake instructor to lunch. Discover I don't know enough to take instructor to lunch.
FridayFLY! Do first stall and second stall during same maneuver, cover instructor with lunch.

Week 2
MondayLearned not to scrape frost off Plexiglas with ice-scraper. Used big scratches on windshield as marker to set pitch.
TuesdayInstructor wants me to stop calling throttle, "THAT BIG KNOB THING." Also, hates it when I call instruments 'GADGETS'.
WednesdayRadios won't pick up radio stations, so I turn them off. Instructor seems to think I missed something during the introductory flight.
ThursdayLearned 10-degree bank is not a steep turn. Did stall again today. Lost 2000 feet. Instructor said that was some kind of record. -My first compliment.
FridayDid steep turn. Instructor said I was not ready for inverted flight, yet.

Week 3
MondayInstructor called in sick. New instructor told me to stop calling her "BABE". Did steep turns. She said I have to have permission for inverted flight.
TuesdayInstructor back. He told me to stop calling him "BABE", too. He got mad when I pulled power back on takeoff because the engine was too loud.
WednesdayInstructor said after the first 20 hours, most students have established a learning curve. He said it seemed there was only a slight bend in mine. Ah-ha!...progress!
ThursdayDid stalls. Clean recovery. Instructor said I did good job. Also did turns around a point. Instructor warned me never to pick ex-fianc้e's house as point again.
FridayDid pattern work. Instructor said that if downwind, base, and final formed a triangle, I would be perfect. More praise!

Week 4
MondayFirst landing at controlled field. Did fine until I told the captain in the 747 ahead of us on taxiway to move his bird. Instructor says we'll have ground school all this week on radio procedures.
TuesdayAsked instructor if everyone in his family had turned gray at such an early age. He smiled. We did takeoff stalls. He says I did just fine but to wait until we reach altitude next time. C-150 will be out of shop in three days when the new nose-strut and tire arrive. Instructor says his back bothers him only a little.
WednesdayFlew through clouds. I thought those radio towers were a lot lower. I'm sure my instructor is going gray.
ThursdayLeft flaps down for entire flight. Instructor asked why. I told him I wanted the extra lift as a safety margin. More ground school.
FridayAsked instructor when I could solo. He laughed till he cried. What was so funny?

"You are brave. Not brave because you are going to be facing any physical dangers; you are not really going to. I mean brave in another, deeper sense. By being on this flight you have shown that you are willing to explore your own identity to discover what might lie within you. Your human clay has not hardened, and you are also willing to explore your own perceptions of the universe, knowing that you may be forced to set aside many comfortable and cherished assumptions. The idea that you must approach honestly and directly is that flying very dramatically makes the pilot solely responsible for his own life."

— Harry Bauer, 'The Flying Mystique: Exploring Reality and Self in the Sky,' 1980

Today was better.

Used Coulter Field because all the planes at Easterwood were tied up. Take off on runway 14 with slight crosswind from the south. I still am not to good at cross-wind taxi and take-off, in particular managing wind across the wings, but am working on it. I think an hour of FlightSim would help.

Did 4 approaches today, including 1 touch and go and a full landing. One of the problems that is clear to me now is that the landing (or touch) has always been in my hands and I didn't know it! I kept thinking we're doing approaches with no touch and I think Andy wants it all the way down, so I keep waiting for the "go around" and he keep waiting for me to finish the job. Consequently, the last ten feet have always been too tense for me and I think aggravating for him.

The touch-and-go today was OK, but I lost it down the runway and he had to take it. Shit. Runway taxiing on two wheels is still a little shaky, and three wheels at 30 mph gave me big-time shimmy in the front wheel (we were in a little 150, something...QD, not the usual 49785). But, I'll get better.

Stabilized approaches are getting more routine. One key has been taking "hands off" late in the downwind leg to show that the trim is right. 65 KIAS, 1700 RPM (carb heat on), nose high (2 1/2 turns in the 152, a little less in the 150) and 10 degree flaps. At that point, I can handle power to control descent rate.

John R did a simulated power off landing straight from late downwind successfully today. He's really kicking some badass when it comes to doing these maneuvers. We've pretty much switched attitudes lately. He looks to be soloing any time now, and I feel like I've got tons left to practice. The good news is that it's only Sept 8 and I may have another 10 hours of flying (double my current total) this month to get it right.

What I like about Coulter: informal, club atmosphere except the club "owns" the airfield. Nice plane. Narrow runway makes me concentrate more.
What I don't like: I need to practice radio and there is virtually none used there. Narrow runway makes me miss more.

We may have more times there in the future, and I need the practice, and planes are available.

Today: 0.8 hours. Total: 10.7

Friday, September 07, 2001

Have you ever wanted something so badly that the "wanting" gets in the way of the "having" and the entire situation becomes nothing more than an exercise in frustration?

Maybe that's what happened today. In rough order of mind-farts, here is how my flying (and I use that description of what I did advisedly) went today:

  • Keys to 785 were missing
  • Preflighted 15Mike. Ordered gas.
  • Keys to 785 located. Scratch 15Mike. Wait for keys to arrive for 785.
  • Gas up 785. Tie down 15Mike. Untie 785.
  • Announce to GC: "Easterwood Ground Cessna 4-niner-785." and then decide to shut up while my brain decides not to communicate with my mouth. GC responds with "proceed to one-six and bravo" as though reading my mind, which at this point is blank.
  • Taxi through winds gusting to 19 kts while trying to configure ailerons and elevators like this:

  • "Easterwood Tower Cessna 4-niner-785 ready for takeoff" (Hey, I did something right! that's one.)
  • Takeoff OK, except for forgetting which way the tower instructed me to turn once in the air
  • Assume heading of 315 to Hearne Airport for practicing approaches. Kept 2300 AGL and around 100 KIAS there, with the wind (which made GS about 15kt faster)
  • Let's see...among other things I couldn't seem to reach stabilized approach on 2 of 3 approaches, I banged the runway on the first one, was too slow on the throttle during the abort of the second one, and felt like I was coming up short (I wasn't, said Andy later) so prematurely throttled the third. Beautiful. Oh yeah. I overshot the final approach twice out of three. Lost track of my altitude twice. Made crummy crabs into the wind and sloppy turns to final and base seems like every time.
  • Lost my headset for what seemed like half the time we were at Hearne.
  • Back to Easterwood, to once again make mincemeat of my communications with tower, who relayed back to us that our signal was "weak"?

Other than that it went fine...

Performed three mile final approach to 16 and it actually went pretty well. (!)

Oh, and I landed relatively unassisted at Easterwood. whoopie.

Now, I'm going home to hug my kids, kiss the wife, maybe get a Hastings movie and enjoy an evening away from planes. There's only one sentiment to express after such a f$%#@$#-up day in the air today.

I can't wait to get back up tomorrow.

Thursday, September 06, 2001

Well, today defined frustration. On and off, the rains came and went over B/CS...finally, late in the day it became clear that the skies would brighten and I would be flyin'.

Got to the airport ten minutes early to preflight the plane and it (N49785) was still out! To a solo student prepping for his check ride. He landed fifteen minutes late, and I hustled out to preflight. The reason I'm in a hurry is that I promised Diane I'd take Chris to his karate goldbelt test tonight at 6:30, so I HAVE to be back by then. Got prepped and waited for Andy to return from his current lesson...nearly 5:30 by the time they returned and it was apparent that I wasn't going to be able to both fly and get home in time.

John R was there to take the time, and I went home to Chris. Made the right decision...Chris and I practiced for a half hour before his test and he went in with confidence and a smile. I hope he made it! I sure love that kid!

I love to fly, but tonight I made the right decision.

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Thunderstorms this morning...will we fly today?

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

Today, for something completely different...a note from a young passenger to an aircraft pilot.

Monday, September 03, 2001

Today brought something new: ground reference maneuvers.

Weather was good: at 1730 CDT partly cloudy and warm (35 C) winds at 7 out of it turns out, winds aloft were more southerly and stronger (as per ATIS on 126.85 , 'Yankee'). We took off from 16. I did the radio (128.70): "Easterwood Ground Cessna 49785 at the Flying Club with Yankee" (then something I don't remember right now like "requesting south departure"). Ground responded with "Use one-six and Bravo" which is where we went for pre-takeoff checks. (I forgot the beacon. did I miss it on the checklist?)

After pre-takeoff, I switch freq to 118.50 and say"Easterwood Tower Cessna 49785 at one six and bravo ready for takeoff." Tower says something like "Roger 785 clear for takeoff on one six" and I say something like "Takeoff on one six. 785" And here we go!

We took off to the south and headed for some fields to the southwest that were fairly large and rectangular. Andy showed me a couple of ways to see which way the wind was blowing: dust from a vehicle on a dirt road, ripples in a pond. That's important because all maneuvers are to be started downwind. Altitude must be between 600 and 1000 feet AGL. I started at about 800' AGL and held it there pretty steady throughout the excercises.

The first was a large rectangle.Downwind to base requires a 45 degree bank, base to upwind about a 30 degree, upwind to across about 20, then back to downwind starts steep than flares out. I had to crab the crosswind legs because the wind kept blowing me to the north.

Next was a series of S's perpendicular to a road. Again, it tested the ability to hold altitude and precisely turn with, against and across the wind. Finally was a circle, which was not too hard when I centered the circle with the wingtip.

After these were done, I felt great! None were as hard as I thought...they were actually pretty fun. Using VOR navigation, we went down to Navasota and landed on what seemed like a 50' wide airstrip. I did an approach, then did a go-around, then did a second approach but Andy did the landing. Just as well...the cross wind might have blown me off the runway.

We then did a flaps-down short field cross-wind take off from Navasota runway 17, turned, set the NAV to 113.30 and kicked ass back to Easterwood (something like "Easterwood tower Cessna 49785 8 miles south approaching for a landing"), entered a left pattern downwind at midfield ("Easterwood tower Cessna 785 at midfield") and did a landing. Again, Andy set it down but I felt pretty good entering the pattern, turning to base and to final. Landed, as we had started, on 16.

I'm still pushing myself to complete a solo this month. Hope the weather cooperates...1.3 more hours brings the total to 8.6. Next flight: Wednesday.

Sunday, September 02, 2001

Yay! Today, finally we flew again!

Took off on runway 16 into partly cloudy skies. Winds 3 kt, and (first time) all radios were on 118.5. Climbing turn left after takeoff to a NE heading, then north and flew through a hole in the cumulus to beautiful, open blue skies at 5300 ASL. Went into slow flight mode at headings between 300 and 060, with various slow turns and a couple of stalls, one with flaps and one without.

Andy did some turns with my eyes closed to give me a feel for how the plane was helped with my understanding of rudder.

Worked hard on controlling altitude at low speed with throttle. Nailed quite a few combinations, going from fast and level to slow and level (note: 2000 RPM = 60 KIA at 5500 ASL) Every 10 degrees of flap = an extra 1000 RPM to maintain altitude at 60 kt.

Dove down through a hole and found ourselves 25 mi N of Easterwood. Flew at 110 kt, 2300 ASL along radial 180 back to sight of Easterwood. Tower had changed runway to 34, so we entered pattern on downwind leg at 1300 ASL. Started descent while entering base...cut RPM and one flaps, then two flaps to start a nose-level (or downward) glide. Airspeed stayed around 65 KIA and I aimed at '34'. Touched down with only a little help, then kept nose up and flew down the runway on 2 wheels. Finally touched down and taxiied home.

1.3 hours today, I felt best yet. Tomorrow, we go again at 5 pm.

Friday, August 31, 2001

Doggoneit! Screwed by the weather again! I'm getting pretty sick of FlightSim!

Thursday, August 30, 2001

Rained out again!! This sucks! Oh, well...perhaps a review.

When I started, I wanted to solo before the end of September and be certified by the end of the year. Here's where I stand w/r/t soloing:

  1. Flight preparation procedures check

  2. Taxiing + surface ops

  3. Takeoffs check and landings not yet

  4. Straight and level flight, turns in both directions check

  5. Climbs and climbing turns check

  6. Airport traffic patterns, including entry and departure procedures need practice

  7. Collision avoidance and wake turbulence avoidence check

  8. Descents, with and without turns, high and low drag need work

  9. Flight at various airspeeds check

  10. Stall entries from various attitudes and power settings check

  11. Emergency procedures no

  12. Ground reference maneuvers no

  13. Approaches to landing area with simulated engine malfunctions no

  14. Slips to a landing no

  15. Go arounds no

So the bottom line is, I still need to cover a bunch more stuff, and practice, practice practice! With luck, I'll be able to catch Andy M-W-F each week for the next few (maybe from 5 to 7), 'cause I think I've got at least 8-10 hours before I'm confident and ready.

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

John Gillespie Magee, killed in action at the age of 19
was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force,
some days before his death wrote:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

August 22
* * * * *
.8 hours today...great time! Took off from runway 16 and headed east, over south CS, then north over Coulter Field. Practiced precise turns. Nearly landed (within 20 feet or so) but did the base leg and final with Andy's guidance.

August 27
* * * * *
No flying today...rained in. We talked about weather and spent an hour or more trying to get MS FS2000 to work in the clubhouse. Installing the controls on that POS is ridiculous.